These days, every gym has kettlebells, that includes big-box, commercial bodybuilding gyms.
It’s clear that kettlebells have become a staple training tool for the entire fitness industry. From CrossFitters to pro athletes to traditional weightlifters, everyone is using them...
However, there are still some people, potentially yourself included, who are skeptical about whether they should incorporate kettlebells into their training plan.
Well, if you have any doubt, we are here to tell you that you absolutely shouldn't.
Why, you ask?
Are kettlebells actually effective? What kettlebell benefits and performance/physical enhancements can I expect to achieve?
We have answers.
Based on research, personal experience and opinions from the fitness community, here are 18 benefits of kettlebells and kettlebell training.
Kettlebells can be used for strength, endurance, flexibility and balance training…the four main aspects of fitness.
This is definitely one of the biggest benefits of kettlebells.
They are versatile and they simplify things!
In a fast-paced complex world, the ability to do total body conditioning with one tool is a nice change of pace.
In fact, we’d go out on a limb and say kettlebells are one of the best tools in existence for truly effective, result-achieving, safe, full-body conditioning.
There are a few reasons why kettlebells are fantastic for improving core strength and stability.
First, many kettlebell exercises are a form of ballistic training. Ballistic training works on explosive power through maximizing acceleration and minimizing deceleration. These explosive movements stimulate the abdominal muscles tremendously well. They require core contraction and coordinated breathing as the movements are intense. This leads to serious improvement in core strength, even when not necessarily targeting your core like you would with crunches or leg raises.
Second, kettlebell movements are multiplanar, so you will be working your core from all directions. This is essential to building well-rounded core strength.
Third, some of the best kettlebell movements are offset and unilateral as you will only be using one kettlebell. When moving the kettlebell around on one side, you will be working your core stability and strength big time.
These are all vital reasons why athletes train with kettlebells. Athletes need core power to explode through opponents, quickly change/move in multiple directions without risking injury (twisting, turning, accelerating/decelerating), and handle loads and pressure from one side while remaining upright (think a running back taking a hit on one side during a play). Kettlebell training offers a dynamic way to accomplish these important physical capabilities.
Remember, your core generates and controls force, so having a powerful trunk is essential to kicking ass at life.
Kettlebell movements are very dynamic. You will be swinging them around - above you, to your side, in between your legs, side to side - and this will necessitate that you are completely aware of your body. This focus and mind to muscle connection will develop, leading you to improved proprioception (coordination; the sense of movement of the body and its parts).
This is very different than conventional training with barbells or machines because the movements are linear and less dynamic.
It’s very important to develop your sense of movement (aka proprioception or kinesthetics). This ability will carry over into improvements in your fitness and life, and it’s certainly a very important aspect of athleticism.
When training with machines, you are producing force and moving in a predetermined path. Conversely, when training with kettlebells, you must control the movement path. This requires you to double down on strengthening the stabilizer muscles for each particular movement. Having strong stabilizer muscles in all ranges of movement, coupled with increased core power as we discussed in one of the benefits of kettlebells above, means your balance will be exceptional.
Kettlebells offer crazy calorie-burning potential, which means FAT LOSS.
ACE did a study that showed swinging a kettlebell burns as many as 20 calories per minute. That’s around 400 calories for a 20-minute workout! To do that running, you’d need to be running at a 6-minute per mile pace.
What’s more, kettlebell training for losing fat is often high intensity, so you have the after-burn effect as well. This is called EPOC, Excess post-exercise oxygen consumption. For those who don't know, this means you will be burning calories at a higher rate long after your workout has finished.
Remember, a kettlebell is a full-body conditioning tool…and that extends to cardio training too.
Thanks to the versatility of kettlebells, you can do a power-packed cardio session with just one kettlebell.
If you are looking to burn calories in a short space of time, a lightweight kettlebell HIIT or metabolic workout (low weight, high rep, high intensity based workouts) will do the job incredibly well. In fact, many think it is more effective than steady-state cardio for burning fat, boosting metabolism, muscular endurance, and improving cardiovascular health. The key is to maintain a high heart rate for the entire workout.
As mentioned in the benefit above, kettlebell cardio training induces EPOC, which means you will be burning fat long after your workout is completed. Potentially up to 24 hours of “after-burn” effect.
Now, it should be noted that this type of training is “repetition” based muscular endurance while running is long-distance muscular endurance. So, if your goal is to have long-distance endurance, for say a marathon, don’t stop doing your typical cardio.
However, if you are looking for cardio benefits such as burning fat, increasing metabolism, and improving cardiovascular health, kettlebell cardio workouts can be equally if not more effective. Plus, it's efficient, as you can get the same results as running or cycling in about half the time.
Moreover, kettlebell cardio workouts are not as boring (sorry runners) as running on a treadmill is, so that’s another plus.
Kettlebells are phenomenal for learning to produce speed and force from your hips.
One of the main and most effective kettlebell exercises is the kettlebell swing. The benefits of kettlebell swings are that they train the hips to produce force in both strength and speed.
The reason hip strength is so important is because it ensures stability and helps prevent injuries. Also, the hips play a very important role in many athletic movements, such as jumping, sprinting and coming out of a sports stance explosively. Knowing how to maximize hip force is essential in power and speed sports.
Kettlebells keep the body loose as the exercises movement patterns rather than isolation exercises. Kettlebell movement patterns require you to move through multiple planes of motion while controlling the force, torque and range of motion. Naturally, you will be improving your mobility by slowly increasing your limits. Over time, you will have much greater flexibility and your joints will become more stable and strong.
When it comes to sports and the real world, this is crucial as it will decrease the chance of injury in your joints, ligaments, and muscles.
Kettlebell exercises won’t build crazy mass like heavy barbell exercises can. Instead, it increases the amount of lean muscle tissue. You’ll notice that people who take kettlebell training seriously, they train with high intensity and are ripped. They have lean muscle mass, not big bulky bodybuilding type bodies.
Not many people these days want to be huge, not only is it a pain to eat enough to get that big, but once you are huge, you lack the ability to move at your best potential.
Kettlebells will make you look great and move even better.
Kettlebells can build dense muscle, which is achieved by higher repetitions and shorter yet intense workouts. This method of training is best for boosting testosterone (i.e. metabolic workouts).
Note: if you are new to fitness, you will surely be able to put on some serious muscle mass with kettlebells if you know what you are doing. And if you have been bodybuilding for years, your muscles will become leaner and tighter, which in our opinion looks much better.
Kettlebells are excellent for the posterior chain. Many of the best kettlebell exercises target your entire backside.
Exercises like the Kettlebell Swings are ballistic movements done from a hinge position, which will make your glutes, hamstrings, lower back, middle back, and traps exceptionally powerful. This translate to jumping higher, running faster, and kicking harder. And, probably most importantly, it will lead to better posture.
But, it’s not just your posterior chain that will be put to the test. By regularly doing kettlebell workouts, you will rapidly develop the major muscles of your hips, core, shoulders, and neck too...and these are all vital aspects of having good posture and a strong backside.
Ever see someone using wrist wraps to do pull-ups? What does this tell you?
Exactly...their grip strength is lacking behind their lat and back strength. But why is this not an issue to them?
Well, many people in the mainstream fitness world don’t think grip strength is that important. It’s not like they are wrestlers or labor workers, right?
Well, we disagree. Grip strength is one of the most important things in fitness and life. You use your grip for just about every exercise that involves weights. The stronger your grip is, the stronger you are. Grip strength has been proven to correlate to increased strength. Plus, having a strong grip is a primal feature that naturally makes us appear powerful to others. And who doesn't want that?
Anyway, this isn’t about why grip strength is important, we’ve done a whole article on that which you can read:
Now, to the point of this specific benefit of kettlebell training. If you do kettlebell workouts consistently, you will develop supremely powerful grip strength. This is because the weight of the kettlebell is not going to be placed in the center of your palm like it is with a barbell. Kettlebells have an offset center of gravity, usually about 6 to 8 inches away from your grip on the handle, so it is harder to control. This means the weight is not balanced in your hand. This is going to make your forearms, wrists and fingers work overtime as you try to control the kettlebell during exercises. The result, your grip will be strengthened from every angle.
Kettlebells are definitely one of the best tools for building vice-like grip strength, as are steel maces too…
Kettlebells can help you pinpoint weaknesses in your strength, movement and coordination.
You may notice that you lack mobility in the overhead position or that your right side is stronger than your left. When you notice this, you can easily target specific areas and perform movements that will help you even things out.
It is said that kettlebells get you comfortable in uncomfortable positions, and this is very true for those who have been training with barbells and machines for a long time.
Working on your weaknesses and imbalances is very important for becoming resilient to injuries.
Everyone has muscle imbalances, but not everyone takes action to correct them. Most just compensate by adjusting their form, engaging muscles that shouldn’t be engaged, or using momentum instead of force. Compensation is not something you want to do when it comes to fitness. Instead, focus on your sticking points and get past them!
The beauty of kettlebell training is that it will train you through all three planes of motion.
You won’t be training just in the sagittal plane like you would with squats and deadlifts. Kettlebell exercises and workouts involve seamless transitions from movement to movement, in different directions and planes of motion. This means you will be building strength from multiple angles, which is essential for real-world, functional strength and sports. What's more, this is how you become resilient to injury and develop all-around strength. This is how you become “combat ready”.
Kettlebell training is generally safer than traditional lifts like heavy barbell squats, deadlifts and bench press.
To get an effective muscular strength workout and to induce hypertrophy, you don’t need to do heavy weights, you can do high intensity, short workouts. High-intensity workouts under 40 minutes will boost testosterone levels while keeping your cortisol levels low.
In the end, both heavyweight lifts and intense kettlebell workouts are effective. However, the risk to reward ratio is far better with kettlebells than heavy barbell lifts. Kettlebells put much less pressure on your spine.
Kettlebell workouts will improve or maintain joint health.
Kettlebell exercises are dynamic so they require deliberate control. This will build joint strength and stability by strengthening the muscles that support your joints (stabilizer complexes).
Moreover, dynamic kettlebell routines will improve joint flexibility and mobility, as we have already mentioned above. This is best achieved with light to medium weight kettlebells.
As you develop more elasticity in the tendons and ligaments of your joints, you will become more resilient to injury.
What’s more, lightweight kettlebell exercises can help to reduce inflammation and swelling.
So, if long term joint health is important to you, which is should be for all of us, you should definitely take on kettlebell training.
You don’t need tons of equipment or to overcomplicate your workouts for them to be effective.
Simple is proven. Simple works. All you need is consistency.
If we were stranded on an island and we could choose one training tool, it would definitely be a kettlebell. This is because, with kettlebells, you can train strength, endurance, balance and flexibility. That's all you need...
So, if you are overwhelmed with all the equipment out there, simplify your life by attacking kettlebell training.
All you need is a 30 minute workout each day. Moreover, you don’t need fancy exercises. The standard, best kettlebell exercises can train your entire body. Think swings, goblet squats, clean & presses, push ups, pull ups, and you are going to get into great shape. The best part is, these exercises are easy to learn.
Minimum effective dose. That’s all it takes.
If you want to have a little more versatility in terms of your training tools, we’d add steel maces, resistance bands, and potentially a suspension trainer into the mix. This along with bodyweight exercises, of course...
You really only need one or two kettlebells to get a killer full body workout in.
If you are looking for home gym equipment that will truly train you for strength, endurance, balance and flexibility (the 4 key components of fitness) then kettlebells are the most cost-effective, space-saving option.
Instead of getting a squat rack, barbell, weighted plates, dumbbells, a bench, etc., all you really need is a set of kettlebells. Not only will it be more cost-friendly, but it will also only take up a fraction of the space. You could leave them in your living room or garage without cluttering it, which is definitely not possible with a conventional gym set up.
What’s more, if you want to do a workout at the park or outside, kettlebells can easily transport to wherever you want to train. You could throw them in your car and be on your way in seconds. Kettlebells are certainly one of the most effective portable training tools to ever exist.
Effective because they are so damn versatile.
The more fun a workout is, the more likely you are to stick with it and do it consistently.
Kettlebell training is fun for a few reasons.
First, the exercises are based on movement patterns which means you will be more involved in what you are actually doing. Comparing to simply moving through the motions with machines and typical conventional training, kettlebell exercises require you to be more mindful.
Second, you can take kettlebells anywhere. You can get a workout in outside, at a place with your favorite scenery. This is definitely a nice way to spice up your training.
Third, the training will be new for you, and when tackling something new, we are more likely to find enjoyment in it.
Lastly, but most importantly, kettlebell training methods are extremely versatile. Kettlebells are perfect for metabolic workouts, HIIT, EMOM, AMRAP, TABATA, complex training, mobility training, circuit training, flows, and more. The best way to keep your body guessing is by throwing new methods of training at it, and when it comes to kettlebells, the options are extensive.
You won’t get bored with kettlebell training. There will always be new, effective ways to challenge yourself. There’s nothing better than doing a workout that is equally as fun as it is effective.
Kettlebells are beneficial for everyone who exercises. They can be implemented into your current training program as a supplemental tool for achieving specific goals and changes in physique and performance, AND, kettlebells can be used as the main training tool, basing an entire fitness program around them.
People who would benefit from kettlebells:
There are literally hundreds of kettlebell exercises and variations, however, sometimes the basic, foundational, and traditional kettlebell movements are the best.
The following exercises are of course not the only highly effective kettlebell exercises, they are simply 5 of our favorite...and based on research and talking with the community, they are favorites of kettlebell coaches and kettlebell enthusiasts too.
We've also included these specific kettlebell exercise benefits for each.
The kettlebell swing is a tremendously effective exercise for building serious hip power. Additionally, this movement combines strength training and cardiovascular conditioning into one efficacious movement. With this exercise, you will become stronger, leaner and more explosive through your hips and core.
The Goblet Squat is a fundamental exercise. This movement will burn fat, build lower body strength and powerful glutes, and improve your mobility. It’s a total body juggernaut of a movement and it is very simple to learn and do with proper form.
The Turkish Get Up is a slow, deliberate exercise that’s extremely effective for building impressive trunk and hip strength, mobility, and strong resilient shoulders. It’s a movement that has a slight learning curve. Nevertheless, it is an extremely challenging exercise and it trains you in positions and at angles that most people don’t normal train. It’s one of those exercises that people are missing to becoming a well-rounded athlete or fitness professional.
The Kettlebell Clean & Press is one of the best full body, compound movements without a doubt. It will increase your grip, core, lower body, and upper body strength. If using a light weight, it will also get your heart rate up through the roof. It is an extremely potent exercise for strength and power endurance/stamina.
Also known as the Tsar of kettlebell exercises, the kettlebell snatch is a ballistic movement that displays ultimate full body power and explosion. This movement is very physically demanding and technical but it’s worth learning as it is outstanding for total body strength and conditioning. If you want to build explosive strength, especially in the hips, and strong, powerful shoulders, this is the movement.
Many of these exercises can be done with single or double kettlebells. If you are looking for additional core stability and balance benefits, try using one kettlebell sometimes. In any case, it’s best to keep your body guessing, so switch it up from single to doubles. For example, if you often doing one arm kettlebell clean & press, try doing it with two kettlebells. This will certainly change the dynamics of the exercise.
One other kettlebell exercise that’s our favorite is the kettlebell farmer’s walk! Grab a very heavy kettlebell and…walk. it. out.
Here is one of our favorite kettlebell workouts to give you an idea of what a good kettlebell workout looks like.
If you have any questions about kettlebell training, please don’t hesitate to contact us.
Now, we want to know why kettlebell training is so effective for you...and, if you think of more kettlebell benefits that we missed, comment below :)
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